Massage Research Supports the Benefits of Massage

Massaging the Neck

What does research show about massage? Massage research conducted by the Touch Research Institute (TRI), which is associated with the University of Miami School of Medicine, has resulted in more than 50 published studies showing the benefits of massage

One landmark study, published in 1986, showed that premature babies who received massage gained 47% more weight, became more responsive, and were discharged from the hospital six days earlier at a savings of $10,000 for each baby. 

Eight months later, the weight and the mental and motor development of massaged infants were still better than premature babies who hadn't received massage. 

TRI has done many research studies on the effects of giving massage to children with medical conditions, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The studies showed positive effects from massage.

Here are massage therapy research results for adult studies:

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: Massage improved sleep patterns, decreased pain and depression, and reduced anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Migraine Headaches: People who received massage had fewer headaches, slept better, and had fewer symptoms of distress.

Multiple Sclerosis: People with MS who received massage were less anxious and depressed and showed improved self-esteem, body image, and social functioning.

HIV Positive Adults: Massage therapy significantly reduced anxiety, stress, and cortisol levels and increased the activity of natural killer cells, suggesting positive effects on the immune system.

Premenstrual Symptoms: Massage improved mood, lessened anxiety, and decreased pain and water retention symptoms.

Pregnancy: Women who received massage during pregnancy were less anxious, had decreased stress hormones, and had fewer obstetric and postnatal complications.

Job Performance/Stress: Massage improved alertness, as measured by brainwave activity. Massaged subjects also completed math problems after the massage in about half the time they need before the massage and with about 50% fewer errors. They also had lower anxiety and job stress levels at the end of the one-month massage period.

It’s important to remember that you need consistent, regular massage to get these results. Plus, always discuss any medical condition with your massage therapist. Occasionally, massage is not a good idea.

Tiffany Field, PhD, founder of TRI has written a book about massage therapy research.

Massage Research About Pain

This May 2016 meta-analysis looked at 67 studies and concluded "Based on the evidence, massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option."

This TRI study showed massage decreased stress and long-term pain. Plus, people receiving massage had less pain directly after the session, fewer symptoms of depression, improved sleep, and improved range of motion.

Researchers compared acupuncture, massage, and self-care education for their effects on the chronic low back pain of 262 adults. After ten weeks of treatment, the most helpful therapy was massage. After one year, the massage group still reported the greatest benefit. 

Effectiveness of Massage Therapy For Subacute Low-Back Pain showed massage improves function and reduces pain and anxiety. 

This 2011 study compared the effects of two types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain found that relaxation massage improved the function of people with low back pain.

More Research Information

Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice (2012)

Reports on research published in Massage Magazine

Scientific and Medical Research (list of studies compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association)

The Massage Therapy Foundation supports scientific research, education, and community service.

What Does the Massage Research Say? from the University of Minnesota



Photo Credit: Massage Nerd

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